Thursday, February 17, 2005

"Save Our Scheme"

All good progressives know that you can't turn the clock back. Those nostalgic for the days of the policeman on the beat, preventing crime, rather than policemen in cars, reacting to an already committed crime, are longing for a golden age which of course never existed.

As The Copper puts it :

“Sir, I’ve had this idea about just going out on foot in one particular area, lets call it a “beat”, and well, what we do is just sort of walk around, “patrol” you might say, and just keep people on their toes. People will be really happy to see us and if the offenders see us they might run off.”

“It’s all very well in theory Copperfield, but it simply isn’t an appropriate use of resources. We’re currently flying over the area in the helicopter once a week and are targeting specific areas every third Thursday. Besides, how many detections do you think you’ll get if you just walk everywhere? No, we need people in cars to respond to calls within the approved time. Got any new strategies?"


”Strategies Copperfield. You know, strategies for safer communities, drug free communities, for policing in diverse environments, that sort of thing.”

“No sir, I just thought I could have a walk round.”

“No Copperfield, we need strategies, why don’t you go and see the youth development officer about developing a strategy for “patrolling” and then we’ll see if we can get some Home Office funding.”

A few years ago, the Broomhouse estate in Edinburgh was plagued by violence, crime, and anti-social behaviour. A community group, "Save Our Scheme" (England 'estate' = Scottish 'scheme' = US 'project') was set up, with funding and a long list of liberal panaceas.

The skateboard park, the sports facilities, the internet cafe. Trips to safari parks, an Astroturf pitch for the local school, a team of 'community wardens', a 'residents empowerment project'.

The result ? A community activist speaks.

" ... after five frustrating years dedicated to improving the quality of life in the area nicknamed "Little Bosnia", the yobs’ ongoing reign of terror has now driven the retired management training officer out of the neighbourhood.

Although First Minister Jack McConnell and the city’s Labour administration have vowed to tackle the anti-social behaviour blighting so many Scottish housing estates, the 60-year-old today admitted defeat and has asked the local authority to relocate him.

Mr Pattison said: "I’ve tried to do my best for the community but I’ve had enough and I’m moving out.

"I’m getting tired and I can’t live like this any more. I don’t want any more hassle or problems.

"I’ve got a lot of good friends about where I live and I feel sorry for them because they’re suffering the same.

"It’s mindless thuggery and there’s no reasoning behind it.

"The police are absolutely powerless because the kids are under 16 and they can do whatever the hell they like whenever the hell they like. "

By May 2004 the "Save Our Scheme" campaigners had changed their aims slightly. They now wanted the Children's Panels (Scots liberal wrist-tappers one and all - "the most vulnerable and troubled young people ... welfare of the child is at the heart of the system" - what about their victims ?) abolished and offenders to face formal courts - with prison for the guilty.

As the Scotsman reported "after two and a half years of trying to understand why these youths were out of control and trying to help them, this week the Broomhouse residents group gave up the fight and called for the hooligans to be locked up"

Daily Telegraph - Members of the group were convinced that if they took a personal interest in the lives of youngsters involved in crime they could make a difference.

But, after failing to bring about any significant improvements through attempts to communicate, educate and understand, they have abandoned the "crusade of hope".

Carol Munro, the chairman of SOS, said: "The powers of the police are useless. We've exhausted every avenue in trying to work with these people. We now need to redress the system.

"There's far too much emphasis on working with and rewarding criminals. The authorities need to look at the community instead.

They plan to deliver a petition, to the Scottish Executive, which is also proposing stronger action on anti-social behaviour among youngsters."

I would urge all readers, especially those north of the Tweed, to sign the petition - if, that is, they agree with it.

Something changed after Scots First Minister Jack McConnell visited the area in June, heard residents complaints, and was given a Cathy-Jamieson-style reception from some young people.

Only a month later, the police found they could spare six officers to walk the streets of Broomhouse, doing the old beat policing scrapped in the 1960s (see Peter Hitchens' book 'A Brief History Of Crime' for details).

The result ? The Copper's boss was right. They haven't made a single arrest.

Car crime is, however, down 80%, assaults down 50%, complaints against youths down 60%.

The police seem quite pleased. Andrew Pattison, the activist driven to despair, has stayed on. And tomorrow (Friday) US viewers can see the scheme in action on Fox News.

I think an (approximate) quote from Montague Rhodes James is in order.

"If this story has a moral, I trust it is obvious. If it is not, I do not very well know how to help it."

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